(CMT Hot Dish is a weekly feature written by veteran columnist Hazel Smith. Author of the cookbook, Hazel's Hot Dish: Cookin' With Country Stars, she also shares her recipes at CMT.com.)
Harmonica wizard DeFord Bailey, superstar Glen Campbell and supergroup Alabama, all officially inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in November, were honored with special medallions during ceremonies at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum on May 7 before a room filled with the famed and near-famed.
The grandson of a slave, Bailey, who died in 1982, is the first harmonica player and the second African American to gain membership in the Hall of Fame. Alabama's Mark Herndon is the first drummer to be included.
Allow me to take you through the momentous evening. My friend, Dan Rogers, drove me to the ceremony, and we immediately recognized Brenda Lee's blonde hair while parking the car. Inside the Hall we visited with the Jordanaires. Group member Gordon Stoker talked about how much they enjoyed harmonizing with the Grascals on "Viva Las Vegas" at the Grand Ole Opry a few weeks past.
These events are special -- like a family reunion. Jo Walker-Meador, retired from her career as the Country Music Association's first executive director, greeted me with a hug. Young Jimmy Wayne hugged me -- as did E.W. "Bud" and Janice Wendell. I found food and a seat on the side to see and be seen.
Earl Scruggs and Randy Scruggs were visiting with Robert W. "Bob" McLean. More hugs! Scruggs' hugs are great, and so are McLean's. A hug from McLean, the man who purchased Mother Maybelle Carter's guitar and Bill Monroe's mandolin for the Hall of Fame is very special.
Del Bryant, president and CEO of BMI, sat a while with us. I'm so proud of Del. A former Nashvillian who's the son of legendary songwriters Felice and Boudleaux Bryant, Del now works in BMI's New York office and oversees the performing rights organization's operations around the world.
I smiled back at the great Eddy Arnold, who smiled at me. He's celebrating his 88th birthday Monday (May 15).
Connie and Jerry Bradley gave me howdy hugs. Connie heads up ASCAP in Music Town, and Jerry is the man who signed Alabama to RCA Records. Jerry's late dad, producer Owen Bradley, is a Hall of Famer. It was good to see former MCA Records president Bruce Hinton and Jim Fogelsong, who ran several major country record labels.
Several of the late Patsy Montana's relatives -- daughter Beverly, grandson Michael and great granddaughter Julieanne -- said hello. Sawyer Brown moseyed by with Lonestar, and Lonestar's Dean Sams ran over to say howdy. Vince Gill gave me a smooch. (Love that Vince!) I also got to visit with two great friends, CMT's Chet Flippo and Buddy Lee Attractions president Tony Conway.
Lyric Street Records' Randy Goodman and Curb Records' Mike Curb appeared to be the only active label heads in attendance. Shame on the rest! Those we honor at the Hall of Fame led -- and we follow. It should be compulsory that every person who makes their living in the music biz take a course on those who have been elected to the Hall of Fame.
More hugs from songwriter John D. Loudermilk and wife Susan, Hee Haw producer Sam Lovullo, T. K. Kimbrell (Toby Keith's manager), Harold Shedd (who produced many of Alabama's classic recordings), Dale Morris (who manages Alabama and Kenny Chesney) and the great Frances Preston (now retired as BMI's worldwide president). I saw Bill Anderson, Phil Everly, Duane Eddy, Don Light, Charlie Louvin, Bryan and Erika White and Glen Campbell's former banjo player, Carl Jackson. I got my picture taken with the Storyteller, Tom T. Hall, who brought along his lady, Miss Dixie Hall. Miss Dixie asked me not to touch Tom T.'s leg when they snapped our photo. "Touch it!" said Tom. I'm crazy over Tom T. and Dixie.
Hall of Fame and Museum director Kyle Young served as master of ceremonies and introduced the organization's chairman, Bud Wendell, who pointed out that music brings us together. Young brought out Vince Gill, president of the museum's board of officers, who offered, "Since I married Amy Grant, I've been asked for three years to open the program with a hymn." Laughter followed. Vince sang a moving version of "What Are They Doing in Heaven Today" and dedicated it to the memory of the late Louise Scruggs, Buck Owens, Vassar Clements, Jimmy Martin and Bonnie Owens.
Young touched on the life of DeFord Bailey, the grandson of an emancipated slave, who had polio as a child but soared to musical heights on the Opry while dealing with racism in the South during the 1920s and 1930s. Backed by the Medallion All-Stars, an informal band featuring keyboardist John Hobbs, drummer Eddie Bayers, guitarists Tom Britt and Biff Watson, pedal steel guitarist Russ Pahl, bassist Michael Rhodes and fiddler-vocalist Andrea Zonn, the tribute to Bailey began with harmonica expert Joe Filisko's rendition of a DeFord favorite, "Fox Chase," complete with the sounds of barking dogs. DeFord Bailey Jr. followed it with a harmonica version of "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot," and the Hall of Fame member's grandson, Carlos Bailey, performed his self-penned "Tribute to DeFord Bailey." Charlie McCoy, for years Music Row's main harmonica man, led the band with the rollicking "Pan American Blues." DeFord Bailey Jr. and his sisters, Christine Craig and Dezoral Lee Thomas, accepted their dad's medallion. Also in attendance, their 91-year old mother, Ida Lee Haynes, who had been married to the music pioneer.
Young mentioned the sharecropping Campbell family in Arkansas and how the seventh son of a seventh son, Glen Campbell, managed to rise to success as a session guitarist, star of television and film and a recording artist who sold 50 million records. Jamie Hartford began the Campbell tribute singing his father John Hartford's most famous composition, "Gentle on My Mind," which garnered Campbell his first Grammy and the ticket for him to cross over to superstardom. Shawn Camp sang "By the Time I Get to Phoenix." Loudermilk performed his self-penned "I Wanna Live," which was Campbell's first No. 1 single.
Campbell choked up when he mentioned his sharecropping parents. He sang his signature song, "Rhinestone Cowboy," just as good as he did 30-plus years ago when the song went No. 1 on both the country and pop charts. Hall of Famer Brenda Lee presented his medallion. Campbell's wife, Kim, and daughter, Debbie, were in attendance.
Young traced the incredible rise of three cousins -- Randy Owen, Teddy Gentry and Jeff Cook -- from their hometown of Fort Payne, Ala., in 1969 through clubs in Georgia and South Carolina before finally reaching Music Town as Alabama in 1979 with drummer Mark Herndon to become the first country-rock band to make it big time.
Lonestar kicked off Alabama's tribute with "Mountain Music" followed by members of Sawyer Brown doing "Dixieland Delight" backed by the All-Stars. I've known Kenny Chesney a dozen years, and that was the first time I'd ever seen him wearing shoes! He always wears sneakers or sandals or flipflops or boots. Kenny, quite the superstar, was dressed in Sunday-go-to-meeting duds, unlike when he began his climb opening shows for Alabama. Kenny's favorite Alabama song is "Lady Down on Love," so that's what he sang. Rascal Flatts did "My Home's in Alabama." They almost didn't make it, though. Lead singer Gary LeVox's hairdresser was late to gel and spike his hair, so he wore a ball cap to cover his unusual do. Aside from it being a bad hair day, Gary stumbled over a few of the words. Frances Preston and Jo Walker-Meador, two powerful women who played major roles in Alabama's career, presented the four men with their individual medallions.
The evening ended with the singing of "Will the Circle Be Unbroken." Afterwards, I was enjoying dessert and coffee in the museum's conservatory when Heath Owen, Randy's son, recognized me and came over with my final hug of the evening. I assured Heath and his older sister that their daddy already has his ticket to heaven paid off in full for all the work he has done through the years with country radio for the children at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.
The very best medallion ceremony ever ended late, but it was well worth my time. Lovers of country music, if you want to honor our forefathers, please do so by making a donation to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.
Bits and Pieces
I cannot reveal the exact dates and places where Toby Keith will be performing, but it's safe to say that he's on a USO tour headed to Germany, the Persian Gulf and other hot spots where troops wear the American flag on their shoulder. God bless you, Toby. We salute you.
Gary and Randy Scruggs joined their dad, Country Music Hall of Fame member Earl Scruggs, for a reception at the CMA offices to accept the Joe Talbot Award presented posthumously to Louise Scruggs. Louise passed away on Feb. 2.
During a sold-out show in Bakersfield, Calif., Brad Paisley recently performed his hit single, "When I Get Where I'm Going," as a tribute to Buck Owens and received the loudest and longest standing ovation of his career. After Brad announced plans to hang out afterwards at Buck's club, the Crystal Palace, thousands had to be turned away at the door. Brad and Josh Turner sang until 2 a.m.
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